A reflection about factors that influence my (developing) philosophy of online learning

This week the reading was interesting but intense; I ended up making a table comparing the research that we discussed last week with the three theories described in our reading.  That helped me to get a better sense of how those theories impact what we think today about learning styles.  I realized that I use several elements in each of the three theories and I had difficulty pinpointing which theory I “believe” in the most.  As I read the other blogs, I wondered how much of an impact our own learning style and environment as young students impacts our views of learning theories now.  When I read about the learning theories and the research involved in developing those theories, they were obviously heavily influenced by social, political, and economic factors at the time.  The context of our society and the educational system today certainly impacts how we interpret those learning theories.

As I thought about distance learning this week in the context of a learning theory, I was also trying to make a distinction between how students learn in online or distance learning environments and what tools and teaching strategies work best to facilitate meaningful learning.  I guess that’s the whole point of this course! 🙂  In our MinecraftEdu challenge this week, I spent time observing others in the game and how they went about their tasks.  It’s clear what Dr. Graham’s approach was in setting up the challenge session; what was interesting was how each player interacted with others and the content (the game and the challenge itself).  I am interested to hear from those that played MinecraftEdu for the  first time or are still new to the game, what they learned and how they felt about the experience.

My teaching style aside, I think my own culture impacted my views on learning theories.  I grew up in a small, collectivist, Pacific Island community, where parents, elders, and chiefs hold the responsibility for teaching, guiding, and decision-making within their particular clan or community.  This is not a culture of when I was young but one that still exists today.  The goal of teaching knowledge, skills, and values to younger community members was to pass on what has been learned and to keep that oral history alive.  There is value in experience and knowledge that has been gained through simply living longer and seeing more things.  At the same time, learning from someone older or more experienced is not a separation of adults and children, it is more of a chain of teaching and learning.  Older or more experienced women teaching younger women, the oldest child teaching the younger children, the oldest or most experienced chief mentoring the younger and newer chiefs.  It is a collective responsibility for teaching and learning because of our shared values and experiences.  As in many cultures, there are many individuals who resist the collectivist nature of the community, but that’s another blog for another course.

In some respects, I think I carry some of that understanding to my work today.  I believe that students walk into a learning environment with their own knowledge, skills, and experiences, maybe they are less developed or less experienced, by I don’t believe they walk in empty-handed or rather “empty-headed.”  At the same time, they need to be guided in this learning by more experienced individuals, someone who has more developed skills and knowledge to effectively guide them to learn.  There is a “way” (course design and structure) that I go about guiding students to learn, based on what I know about them, and how I believe they will learn best.  However, my goal is to teach them to be intentional and effective learners no matter what the content.  Alison (@ak_agryga) wrote in her blog about “techno-constructivists” and that term really stuck in my head as a technology-oriented approach to teaching or learning.  I also think students’ ownership over their learning and their individual learning styles influence how I view learning theories.  I will be thinking more about that and how it impacts my philosophy of distance/online learning.

Any thoughts, feelings, opinions, suggestions?

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